What, exactly, is "trash talk?" Dictionary.com defines it as "disparaging or boastful language used especially to demoralize or intimidate opponents." But that's not adequate, because "disparaging" means different things to different people, which leaves the door open to terrible tirades of abuse behind hand-waved as mere "trash talk" intended to get under an opponent's skin—and apparently working, because you sure are upset, aren't you?
In an update to the Community Standards for Xbox (opens in new tab) posted earlier this week, Microsoft has laid out what exactly constitutes trash talk on its platform, and what crosses the line into harassment and abuse.
"We get it—gaming can be competitive and interactions with other players can get heated. A little trash talk is an expected part of competitive multiplayer action, and that’s not a bad thing. But hate has no place here, and what’s not okay is when that trash talk turns into harassment," the site says.
"Trash talk includes any lighthearted banter or bragging that focuses on the game at hand and encourages healthy competition. Harassment includes any negative behavior that’s personalized, disruptive, or likely to make someone feel unwelcome or unsafe. To qualify as harassment, the behavior doesn’t have to be drawn-out or persistent. Even a single abusive message could harm someone’s experience. Know when to draw the line, when to back off. Know and respect the other player."
Not content with merely defining the term, Microsoft also shared multiple examples of acceptable trash talk, and "going too far."
Acceptable trash talk includes:
- Get destroyed. Can’t believe you thought you were on my level.
- That was some serious potato aim. Get wrecked.
- Only reason you went positive was you spent all game camping. Try again, kid.
- Cheap win. Come at me when you can actually drive without running cars off the road.
- That sucked. Get good and then come back when your k/d’s over 1.
Going too far looks like:
- Get <sexual threat>. Can’t believe you thought you were on my level.
- Hey <profanity>, that was some serious potato aim. Get wrecked, trash.
- Only reason you went positive was you spent all game camping. KYS, kid.
- Cheap win. Totally expected from a <racial slur>.
- You suck. Get out of my country—maybe they’ll let you back in when your k/d’s over 1
It's funny, but also unfortunate that we apparently need to provide word-for-word examples of how not to be a racist while you're playing videogames online. At the same time, I think it's kind of heartening to see Microsoft acknowledge that racism, homophobia, exhortation to suicide, and other forms of abuse are, you know, abusive.
PC gamers have the "advantage" of being able to use services like Discord while playing online, which might make these rules seem a little less relevant to us than they are to console owners. But the line between Xbox the console and Xbox the game service is growing increasingly blurred, and Microsoft has indicated that it plans to increase its commitment to PC gaming in the future. And if Microsoft is willing to nail down specifically what is and isn't acceptable behavior in its code of conduct, I won't be at all surprised to see other services take similar steps in the future.